2008 Ducati 848 Specifications:
848cc L-Twin, Desmodromic, 8 valves
Bore x Stroke:
94 x 61.2mm
118.3 hp @ 10,200 rpm
63.6 lb-ft @ 8100 rpm
417.5. lbs w/fuel
Power to Weight Ratio:
0.28 hp per lbs
Showa 43mm fork, 3-way adj.
Showa shock, 3-way adj.
Pirelli DSP 120/70R17, 180/55R17
24.5 deg. Trail:
4.1 Gal. Measured MPG:
Exhaust dB at 5000 rpm:
Hopping aboard the Ducati 848
reveals the exact same riding geometry as its big-bore superbike bro. If you're a self-proclaimed 1098 fanatic like me the seating position will be both familiar and comfortable. If, however, you're not endowed with a lengthy torso sitting on the Duc will be a bit of a stretch.
"The 848 feels like its born and bred for track duty," says Editorial Director Ken Hutchison. "Just like, and I mean just like the 1098, the bars are really low and the foot pegs really high. It's a bit of a stretch for me but for the racetrack its perfect. When you're sitting on the bike your always in full attack mode."
And that's fine on the racetrack. Because when you're riding the Ducati like it or not you're going to haul ass. The 848's riding ergos work in unison with its phenomenal chassis and stump-pulling engine to make fast laps come with relative ease.
"The front end inspires significantly more confidence than most other bikes and it makes the 848 an excellent weapon for turning fast laps," comments Hutchison. "It seemed easier to get a quick lap on the Ducati because you could run it in hot and still scrub off some speed with the front tire. Fortunately the fork has profuse amounts of feel - allowing you to push it harder than you would on the GSX-R."
"It feels like its on rails," says our guest tester and MotorcycleUSA resident IT guru Joe Wallace. "The Ducati takes a little more aggressive riding style to get it to turn in but once its carving its totally in its element."
True. The Ducati certainly requires more input from the rider to initiate a turn, making it feel a bit cumbersome through B-Willow's Esses section. But once the Duc is turning it's as stable as Warren Buffet's investment portfolio, however, its solidity can quickly be compromised under acceleration out of a bumpy corner due to its lack of a steering damper.
You see, just because the 848 has a smaller engine doesn't make it any less expensive to manufacture. This means that some components need to be removed in order for it to reach its $13,495 price point. And unfortunately the damper is one of the parts getting axed.
"It can certainly getaway without the steering damper," says Hutchison. "However, if you put a real aggressive turning tire on the bike like a Dunlop it could make the bike a bit too twitchy."
On the streets the lack of a steering damper can be noticeable, particularly when accelerating hard on an uneven stretch of road. Pair that with the super aggressive ergos, small 4.1 gallon fuel tank, thinly padded seat and almost useless rear-view mirrors and day-to-day life with the Ducati can get old pretty quick.
The 848 engine comes online much earlier than the Suzuki's and treats the rider with a strong, steady stream of power from as low as 4000 revs.
"If you're just going for quick blast in and around the city then the Duc's fine, no problem," says Hutch. "The seat gets a bit hot in traffic though and getting the Duc off the line takes more finesse with the clutch than the Suzuki. It's certainly better than the 1098's dry clutch (the 848 uses a hydraulically-actuated wet clutch). If you're considering doing a riding stint longer than 100 miles, you probably should think about riding something else."
And that something else is the Suzuki. The last few renditions of the GSX-R have developed a reputation for comfort and this year's version continues to impress. Climb aboard and you feel like you're sitting within the motorcycle rather than perched atop like on the Duc. Extend your arms out and you'll be surprised by how well within reach the handlebars are. You'll also be amazed by just how slim it is-especially for an Inline-Four. And although you won't notice this immediately--after a gas tank or two your derriere won't be numb in protest. Another clever touch is that the foot controls can be moved up and down or forward and aft in a 14mm range, allowing the rider to customize the riding position. In fact, the GSX-R is so comfortable that all you would need is fit some decent luggage and you've got yourself a capable 170-mph sport-tourer!
Complementing its intuitive riding position is a chassis that is well sorted at any speed. Despite our man Wallace having never ridden the GSX-R before, he found himself comfortable and quickly up to speed at the 28-turn Reno-Fernley circuit.